Extensibility is a key feature of any card-carrying browser, and with such an expansive library of extensions, Google Chrome has given users more customization options than ever before. Just like iPhone apps, there increasingly seems to be a browser extension for just about everything. And the right combination of them can make using your browser a more enjoyable experience. In no particular order, here’s our list of favorites that will make your browser more comfortable and useful than ever before.
This is one of those extensions that you might not use every day, but when you do, you’ll be really thankful you installed it. Lazarus is a form recovery extension that temporarily stores things you’ve written in online forms and applications. If a page times out, crashes, or refreshes when you click ‘next’, all you have to do is click Lazarus’ icon and it will autofill all of the fields that your browser so rudely deleted without your permission.
2. Hover Zoom
Similar to the popular extension Facebook PhotoZoom, Hoverzoom is a lesser-known extension that does the same thing — but on way more sites than just Facebook. Once installed, this add-on will enlarge pictures to their full size whenever you place your cursor over them. So rather than clicking on images and being redirected to a separate page in order to see them full size, all you have to do is hover. Although it doesn’t work with every picture on the web, developers have worked hard to make it work on hundreds of the most popular sites on the Net, and they’re constantly adding to the list. A must-have for lazy browsing.
As it is currently the most popular extension for Chrome, you’ve probably heard about this one. It’s a powerful tool for blocking all advertisements on the Web – banner ads, flash ads, video ads, text ads, Facebook ads, and more. It runs quietly, and makes for a clean, distraction-free browsing experience, so its no surprise that over 7.5 million people use it.
We hate to break it to you, but browsing the Net is anything but private. Many of the sites you visit collect information on what pages you’re viewing, the links you’re clicking, and the time you spend on each page. Why? Companies pay big bucks for third-party data collection agencies to analyze this information so that they can deliver you precisely targeted ads — it’s how Internet advertising works. Don’t like being watched? Ghostery allows you to block over 1,000 different trackers and bugs, including Google AdSense, Facebook Connect, and a long list of others you’ve never even heard of. If you want to browse the interwebs without the accompanying paranoia of knowing your every click is being monitored and recorded, give Ghostery a try.
Chrome already has a built-in password saving function, but it’s not nearly as full-featured as LastPass. Essentially, LastPass saves all your passwords in a secure, locally encrypted vault, and will autofill username and password info when you click on the icon. You can also have Lastpass generate highly-secure passwords for you at the click of a button, which decreases the chance that they can be guessed by password cracking software or a mischievous roommate. Passwords are encrypted locally, which means that not even LastPass can view them.
Ever read the meta-description under a link listed in Google’s search results, but after clicking the link you discover that the relevant snippet you just read has been lost among a sea of text? Google quick scroll saves you time and energy by highlighting the sentences that were relevant to your original query, and providing you with a clickable list of them in the bottom-right corner of your browser. If clicked, the page will quickly scroll down to the highlighted text — allowing you to find useful information faster and more efficiently.
If you spend any time on Facebook, there’s a high likelihood that you’ve come across apps like SocialCam, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Viddy, and others that will post media your friends are watching/reading to your news feed. Its a cool idea, but it gets really annoying when you click the link and are forced to install the website’s Facebook app before you can view the desired media. FOGR allows you to bypass all that and just go straight to the video or article that your friend posted without any pesky app installations.
Most computers come with some kind of native calculator application, but if you’d rather not switch between programs just to do a quick calculation, give this extension a try. Developed by Google, the powerful little calculator can handle just about anything you throw at it: two plus two, π×82, problems with mixed variables or archaic measurements, and much more. It also speaks English, so you can ask it things like “how many cups in a gallon” and it will still give you an answer. Just click the icon and Cloudy Calculator pops up as a drop-down window that will disappear if you click away, so you don’t even need to navigate away from the page you’re on.
Let’s say you’re reading a blog or online article, and you feel compelled to leave a comment. Oftentimes, you’re required to register as a member of the specific blog or site, or maybe sign in with Facebook. This can be a tedious process. BugMeNot allows you to bypass these kinds of compulsory registration procedures. If you happen to to be on one of the thousands of sites that the extension works with, an icon will appear in your Omnibox, allowing you to enter BugMeNot’s login info with a single click. Like most extensions, it doesn’t work with every site, but since users can add sites themselves, the list is growing rapidly every day.
10. Clickable Links
This is an extension that you honestly won’t notice once its been installed, but if you were to uninstall it after using it for a month, you’d surely notice a difference. This one takes any URL or email address that isn’t clickable, and turns it into a blue hyperlink. Nothing too complex here, but the small bit of added convenience makes using Chrome that much easier.
11. Offline Mail
If you regularly find yourself in situations where you’re unable to connect to the Internet, but you’d still like to respond to a few emails, then this extension is for you. Mail can be read, responded to, archived, and searched without network access. As soon as Chrome is opened and an Internet connection is available, the extension will automatically synchronize all messages and queued actions. Essentially, it lets you do everything Gmail normally lets you do, and stores all those actions until it has a Internet connection and can actually execute them.
12. Speed Dial 2
Chrome’s startpage becomes customizable with this extension, allowing you to skip scrolling through your ridiculously long list of bookmarks, and add buttons for the pages you visit the most. Speed Dial 2’s clean and easy-to-navigate interface makes it a pleasure to use, and adds some panache to your startup screen.
13. Web of Trust (WOT)
You’ll never have to worry about the safety of the links you click on ever again with WOT, a user ratings-based app that will let you know if a particular link is good or bad before you click it. Once installed, it will place a color-coded circle next to every clickable link on the Web, which informs you how safe the link is. Hover over the link to see more detailed ratings of the site like trustworthiness, vendor reliability, privacy and child safety. With a user community of well over half a million people, you can usually trust that WOT’s ratings are accurate.
If you’re a fan of RSS, this extension is a must-have. Developed by Google, the program automatically sniffs out any RSS links on the site, and will display a familiar orange icon in your Omnibox that, if clicked, will give you a drop-down menu filled with available feeds you can subscribe to. At time of writing, it works with Google Reader, iGoogle, Bloglines, and My Yahoo, but users are free to add any Web-based feeder they like.
Even if you don’t do a lot of online shopping, this extension is awesome. By compiling thousands of different online retailers, PriceBlink compares the price of the items you click against thousands of other sites on the Web to find you the lowest option. It’s got a minimalist, unobtrusive design that doesn’t use much space when its working, and disappears entirely when you’re not using it.
That wraps up the list, but if we left out any of your favorites be sure to tell us about them in the comments!